Digital music sales have been steadily climbing ever since Apple opened the iTunes store in 2003. But that streak was broken in 2013 as sales of digital music dropped for the first time in 10 years.
Billboard cites Nielsen SoundScan in reporting sales on digital tracks dropped from 1.34 billion units to 1.26 billion units, or less than 6 percent. Digital album sales dropped by about 100,000 units, or less than 1 percent — maybe a much bigger deal than numbers indicate because this is the first time it has happened.
The magazine says sales of digital tracks were expected to be low at year's end because of weaker sales all through 2013, but the drop on digital album sales was surprising seeing as the numbers showed a strong first quarter. (Via Apple)
Nielsen hasn't released numbers on streaming music yet, but some music writers suggest music streaming services such as Spotify or Pandora are to blame for digging into digital sales numbers.
Spotify was founded in 2006 and arrived in the U.S. in 2011, touting month-to-month or annual subscriptions for unlimited, ad-free music.
As one Gizmodo writer says, "If you have Spotify why the hell would you buy a digital album?"
Spotify has been unpopular with some music artists because they're paid a fraction of a cent per listen, but Time notes more companies will soon be joining the ranks of music streaming services. (Via Star Trak Entertainment / Robin Thicke)
"Both YouTube and Beats Electronics [which produces Beats by Dre headphones] are planning to launch paid streaming services early this year. ... Even Apple, the king of digital sales, has dipped a toe into the streaming space by launching the Pandora competitor iTunes Radio."
It's not clear whether the move to streaming will ultimately help or hurt the record industry, but Gizmodo points out global recorded music revenues saw a slight increase in 2012 — the first time since 1999 — with much of that bump credited to digital music sales.